“Writers Live Inside Their Heads”

When I read this line, I said to myself, “Doesn’t everybody?” and I’ve been puzzling over it ever since. The writer* did not elaborate.

If it means that writers have more lively imaginations (sometimes even lurid, often doomsday, but occasionally just fanciful), I can understand that. I find myself making up stories in my head all the time, and certainly not fairy tales, although often just as unrealistic. And I’m sure I spend far more time doing this than is good for me (the Reality Angel on my shoulder will whisper, “Oh cut it out, for Heaven’s sake).

If it means that writers spend a lot of time writing in their heads, I can identify with this too. Not all, but much of my experience gets “written up” without benefit of computer or pen and paper. When I was in Intensive Care a few years ago, this writing in my head about what was happening around me probably saved my sanity. Under normal conditions, it’s good practice to play around with words in one’s head, test out how they sound, curl them up on the tongue, imagine how they would look on the page or how an invisible reader might feel them. And, as I’ve noted elsewhere, writing about your experiences (even in your head) places you more squarely in the moment, adds to its savor.

But perhaps most of all – and this should be true of everyone, not just writers – a lifetime of past experiences lives inside our heads, some of them conveniently visible on shelves, some tucked between the leaves of books, some in dusty boxes, old recipe files or bottom dresser drawers. Music evokes many of these for me. Others I have to go digging for, hidden treasures richer for the remembering. It’s the exercise of poking around through these, as we age and contemplate writing them down in some coherent, painful, lyrical or funny way, that I believe is the real living inside our heads. It is not an unhappy place to be.


*I read this recently, but am now unable to find the source. I think it was in Hippocampus Magazine, so if anyone knows who wrote it, please let me know. I dislike leaving quotes unattributed. Thanks. SSH


© Sandra Shaw Homer, 2015

Photo by SSH

Photo by SSH

About SSH

Philadelphia native and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, Shaw Homer has lived in Costa Rica for over 30 years, where she has taught languages and worked for environmental NGOs. In addition to writing for the local press, her fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in both print and on-line literary and travel journals, as well as on her blog, writingfromtheheart.net. Her travel memoir, Letters from the Pacific, received excellent Kirkus and Publishers Weekly reviews. Her most recent book is Evelio’s Garden: Memoir of a Naturalist in Costa Rica. She and all her books can be found at www.sandrahomer.com.

2 thoughts on ““Writers Live Inside Their Heads”

  1. Jude says:

    The artful and authentic blend of head and heart makes great literature… And I love the Schubert. Thank you Sandy.

  2. Katherine Masis says:

    No, not everyone lives in their heads! Many people live from/in their hearts, or a little bit of both head and heart. I’ve met some folks who live in their heads (all of them immersed in academia–usually math-&-science folks) and they’ve struck me as quite disconnected from their own emotions and bodies–as if they were somehow hovering a little bit above them. It would seem that living in the head can become cumbersome, as there are quite a few traditions that seek to “de-head” us. Zen training attempts to take one’s focus from the head down to the “hara,” or abdominal area (http://thezenhealer.com/2009/09/14/how-to-develop-power-and-focus-in-your-hara/). Sufi forms of meditation such as Puran Bair’s Heart Rhythm Meditation aim at making the heart the center of attention (http://livingfromtheheart.com/Welcome.html). Douglas Harding developed the Headless Way (http://www.headless.org/). One of the claimed benefits of Hatha Yoga is to become aware of one’s whole body and not just live in one’s head. An old professor I had once said, several decades ago, that the ancient Greeks held their mental images at the heart level, because they thought that was where the seat of the mind was. I once read that Indian sage Ramana Maharshi said that we instinctively point to our hearts when we refer to ourselves. The December 2014 issue of Discover has an article that summarizes recent studies of where people think their “self” is. Interestingly enough, today some people refer to themselves and other people by pointing to their own or other people’s heads! This might be because of all this emphasis on brain, brain, and more brain studies. So Sandy, I’m glad you named your blog “Writing from the Heart”!

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